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Poll: Faith important in 2012, but Mormon skepticism remains
November 8th, 2011
08:25 AM ET

Poll: Faith important in 2012, but Mormon skepticism remains

By Dan Merica, CNN

WASHINGTON (CNN) – A poll released Tuesday painted a picture of a religious electorate that has a strong preference toward religious candidates.

According to the Public Religion Research Institute survey, two-thirds of voters (67%) said it is either very important or somewhat important for a presidential candidate to have strong religious beliefs.

"Among those who say it is important for a presidential candidate to have strong religious beliefs, most say that what matters is simply holding strong religious beliefs, rather than holding particular religious beliefs," the survey said.

Rick Perry's faith journey culminates in presidential run

At a press briefing about the survey, Washington College political scientist Melissa Deckman said that importance of candidates' religiosity "is a notion that... transcends party."

At the same time, the electorate is split over their comfort level with a specific religion, Mormonism, and the prospect of a Mormon serving as president.

A majority of voters (53%) said they were somewhat or very comfortable with a Mormon president, while 42% said a Mormon president would make them somewhat or very uncomfortable.

"These findings suggest that when voters report that it is important that a candidate have strong religious beliefs, they have certain types of religious beliefs in mind, and hold significant reservations about the beliefs of some minority religious groups," the study said.

How Mitt Romney's Mormonism shaped his life and politics

"Clearly, most Americans like political candidates to have some sort of general civil religious beliefs," Deckman said.

"The data shows clearly here a lot of Americans show discomfort with Mormons, 42% acknowledge that, but they express more discomfort with atheists and Muslims than they do with Mormons," Deckman added.

The level of comfort with a Mormon president has risen to importance in the 2012 nomination battle because there are two Mormon candidates in the race, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman.

In the most recent USA Today/ Gallup poll, Romney is tied with businessman Herman Cain at the top of the field, a position Romney has maintained throughout this race.

Though only around one-third of respondents said that Mormonism is not a Christian religion, two-thirds (66%) of voters said that the religious beliefs of Mormons are somewhat or very different from their own.

Additionally, 19% of voters identified they would be less likely to vote for a candidate who had strong religious beliefs other than their own.

Mormon Church aims to counter its lily-white image

According to the study, all the data, "reveals that a substantial number of voters (42%) express concern about a Mormon becoming president."

Robert P. Jones, the CEO of PRRI, noted at the briefing that other surveys have shown half of Americans know someone who is Mormon. "If there's a silver lining, it's that those opinions may not be strongly held," he said, adding the Romney could counter those loosely-held beliefs about Mormons on the campaign trail.

"There is no (religious) test for office. And yet it is one of the most important tests for office," said Jose Casanova, an expert in the sociology of religion at Georgetown University's Berkley Center for Religion, Peace and World Affairs, who also spoke at the release of the survey results. "So no official test, yet it is crucial for most voters."

The survey also examined views of income inequality in America, an issue that has thrust to the forefront of public discourse by the Occupy protests going on in cities around the world.

"A strong majority (60%) of Americans agree that the country would be better off if the distribution of wealth was more equal," the study said. Thirty-nine percent of respondents disagreed.

That questions was largely partisan, with 78% of Democrats and 60% of independents agreeing the country would be better, compared to 63% of Republicans who disagreed with that sentiment.

Explain it to me: Mormonism

The American Values Survey was conducted between September 22 and October 2 over the telephone. The 1,505 respondent survey comes with a plus or minus 2.5 percent margin of error.

CNN's Eric Marrapodi contributed to this report.

- Dan Merica

Filed under: Faith • Politics • Polls

soundoff (803 Responses)
  1. Curious observer

    Too bad people aren't as uncomfortable about electing idiots as they are about electing a Mormon. Who cares what his religion is? Is he smart enough to hold the office of the President and will he do a good job? Those are the only questions that matter.

    November 8, 2011 at 12:23 pm |
    • Paul

      if the voters had a brain, yes those would be the only important questions. Only the voters are idiots... so now the length girt and hardness of the candidate's dick become important.
      What can you do? This is it ... that's how politics works ...

      November 8, 2011 at 12:29 pm |
    • Clinton

      What is wrong with people, why are you trying to act all high and mighty as if these people that were polled were evil racist people because they spoke the truth about how they feel about a candidate. The political process is about people finding the representative that best represents them and their values and beliefs. Why the !@#$ wouldn't religion be an important thing for a voter to consider? Tell me that jack!@#.... should Catholics voters be okay with somebody that is say... an Atheist, even though they know that the representative doesn't have the same beliefs and values that they hold dear? Why would they be okay with that? You guys went straight to the black and white of the issue is the problem... these people that were polled were simply stating that they are uneasy with Romney's religion because they don't know if his beliefs match up with theirs... and if his beliefs don't match up with theirs... then his policies probably won't either.... how !@#$ing dumb are you people?

      November 8, 2011 at 12:48 pm |
    • Central Scrutinizer

      If he is stupid enough to be Mormon, then he is too stupid to be president. That just cannot be overlooked.

      November 8, 2011 at 1:03 pm |
  2. Emperor Vadik, CA

    Who cares if someone is Mormon or Catholic or Muslim....

    ...as long as they keep their faith personal and don't govern with or thru it...

    November 8, 2011 at 12:21 pm |
    • Clinton

      I agree Vadik except, what president hasn't based their decisions on their religion? We hear it all the time... so why does it suprise anyone that voters who are not Mormon are concerned about his beliefs? It's not racist for these voters to be concerned with the representatives' religion, they want to be sure that the person they are voting for has the same set of morals and values that they hold because that is what this guy would use to base his decisions if he was president.. People are so PC these days... they think if you don't agree with another group's belief's you're automatically racist.... it's bull#@$&

      November 8, 2011 at 12:53 pm |
  3. WDinDallas

    Better Mormon than Muslim

    November 8, 2011 at 12:19 pm |
    • Normon

      Better dead than red, eh?

      November 8, 2011 at 12:23 pm |
    • Central Scrutinizer

      Better Muslim than Christian

      Better Christian than Athiest

      Oh wait, no Athiest would be good. Let's go with that one.

      November 8, 2011 at 1:04 pm |
  4. Bring-um Young

    the problem for romney (huntsman doesn't stand a chance) is that most of those uncomfortable with a Mormon are conservatives.

    And this poll also shows how ignorant Americans are about religion, including their own. Mormonism is clearly NOT Christian in any sense of the word. It was invented, or "revealed" according to mormons, 150 years ago to a New Yorker, and the religious beliefs of mormons are completely anathema to Christianity AND mormons do not conside any of the actual Christian denomonations to be "Christians" because they don't beleive that Joe Smith was guided by Moron-i to translate magic tablets using a magic breastplate and hat in New York, thus revealing the truth that Indians are Jews and Jesus was in North America. Read their beliefs sometimes. It sound like Monty Python made it up.

    November 8, 2011 at 12:18 pm |
    • Paul

      Mormons are no better or worse than any other religion. Religion is BS, Period.

      November 8, 2011 at 12:24 pm |
    • JeramieH

      And regular Christianity doesn't?

      November 8, 2011 at 12:25 pm |
    • political correctness

      go do more research. You have no clue what Christianity means. You claim to be a Christian but you are not following Christ's teachings. A true christian is someone who lives a Christ-like life in word and in deed, and not bashing other beliefs. You would be called a hypocrite because you are condemming your own fellowmen who have not done anything to you.

      November 8, 2011 at 12:25 pm |
    • Nonimus

      "It sound like Monty Python made it up."
      Agreed. And that goes for all religions too.

      Not 'Christian in any sense'... except, of course, for believing in Christ.

      November 8, 2011 at 12:27 pm |
    • TommyD

      What makes you an authority on who's a Christian? Can you tell everyone how other Christian religions were started? Was Jesus conserned about being "mainstream". The Chruch of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints was "Restored" not "started".

      November 8, 2011 at 12:32 pm |
    • John

      Can a brother hear from some ex cult members?

      November 8, 2011 at 6:21 pm |
    • Dwight Rogers

      No true that Mormons teach that other Christians are not Christians. Cite where you get your information from.

      Mormons are not supposed to be Christian because we have some doctrinal differences with other Christian groups of today. The foundation for the beliefs of these other groups is the creeds of the 4th. 5th, and 6th centuries and so on.

      It is claimed that Mormons are wrong because they believe in extra-Biblical revelation and scripture. Yet much of Christianity believes in extra-Biblical creeds and councils formulated centuries after the time of Christ and the Apostles. Most of the wording formulations in these creeds cannot be found in the Bible. This is often the excuse used to exclude members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons) from being Christian. It is well known to historians that Christian doctrine changed over time and across different Christian groups.

      The bible is then viewed through the lens of these creeds causing certain interpretations to be favored and other biblical teachings to be minimized or ignored. Interestingly, if you look at the doctrines of the early church fathers before the creeds, they are very Mormon-like. In a number of doctrinal areas the early Christians were good Mormons and would be rejected as non-Christian by many Christians of today.

      In many areas of belief (probably the majority of areas) Members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons) believe the same as most other Christians. It is true that in some limited areas – some very critical ones – the beliefs of Mormons differ from other Christians. Likewise there are some major areas of difference between Catholics and Protestants and likewise between one Protestant group and the next. Every denomination could make the claim that the other groups are not Christian because those other beliefs differ from their own.

      Joseph Smith taught “The fundamental principles of our religion are the testimony of the Apostles and Prophets, concerning Jesus Christ, that He died, was buried, and rose again the third day, and ascended into heaven; and all other things which pertain to our religion are only appendages to it”.

      The central belief of Mormons is that Christ came into the world as the Son of God. He healed the sick, caused the lame to walk, the blind to see, the deaf to hear, and restored life to the dead. He commissioned twelve Apostles to whom he gave authority. He suffered in Gethsemane, died on the cross, and was resurrected and will come again. He, and only He, provides the means for us to be washed clean in his blood from our sins, which sins we can never correct on our own or through our own works. If that is not Christian I don’t know what is. Christ never taught the need to believe in anything like the creeds. Those came later.

      Mormon belief is very much like the teachings of the earlier Christians – before the creeds – and also matches the teachings of Christ and the Apostles. The further back in time you go the more Mormon-like Christian doctrine becomes. More on this later. Mormons are often portrayed as non-Christian when we don’t believe in the later extra-Biblical creedal formulations.

      The early Christians did not have the extra-Biblical creeds of later centuries. Were they then not Christian? The ontological debates and the wording formations of later centuries are not found in the words of Jesus or the words of the Apostles or in the words of the pre-creedal Christians . There is not a word about a one substance god in the Bible or in the early beliefs. If believing in the creeds is necessary to be Christian then that makes the earlier Christians not Christian – it even makes Christ not Christian.

      One other interesting aspect of this topic: Some Christians claim that we must get our beliefs and doctrines from the Bible only. It is claimed that God finished his work and no longer has prophets or gives revelation. They say the Mormons are wrong to have prophets and extra scripture. Consider this: If the Bible is sufficient and no post-Biblical revelation is allowed, then the post-Biblical creeds are not necessary and are not authorized by God. If God authorized the creeds then why aren’t they in the Bible? How could they be from God if the Bible is complete, if God has finished his work, and if there is no more revelation? They are extra-Biblical and no one should be held to them as a requirement to be Christian. It is so ironic that Mormons are criticized for having extra-Biblical revelation by people who themselves believe in extra-Biblical creeds. Once one puts on the glasses of the creeds then everything in the Bible is filtered to match the creeds.

      Mormons believe in original Christianity restored to the earth through revelation to new prophets. Nowhere does the Bible say that God has finished his work, that the cannon of scripture is closed. It seems ironic to us that we Mormons are accused of adding to the Bible by people who have done just that – added creeds and metaphysical definitions to the Bible. We advocate for believing original Christianity.

      Dwight

      November 9, 2011 at 7:39 pm |
  5. Timothy

    It's not simply a matter of prejudice. Mormons are pacifists. What happens if we are attacked? Would a LTS president decide we needed to turn the other cheek? This concerns many people.

    November 8, 2011 at 12:14 pm |
    • Oodoodanoo

      Mormons are not pacifists.

      November 8, 2011 at 12:22 pm |
    • Jim

      What is an LTS president?

      November 8, 2011 at 12:26 pm |
    • Striker

      Mormon's are not pacifists and on the contrary have a long record of supporting the military during conflicts. In fact Gen. Bruce Carlson was a four-star general at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, and now is in the upper leadership in the LDS (Mormon) church. Mormon's are not eager to go to war but if called to serve we don't shrink from our duty.

      November 8, 2011 at 12:28 pm |
    • StanPark

      How many Mormons are there in the Armed Forces? There are more Mormons outside the US than within our borders. I'd bet there are Mormons in almost every's country military. I know that Mormons are very patriotic and are not afraid to take a stand, even if it's not the popular thing to do.

      November 8, 2011 at 12:29 pm |
    • Daniel

      Where on earth did you get the idea that Mormons are pacifists? Look up their history! They have had a vile relationship with the government since day one. Violence has been used against them as well. It comes to me as no surprise that many Mormons have a negative view of government. Glen Beck is a Mormon. Romney supports both wars (yet he has sons who do not serve in the military). Harry Reid is somewhat of an anomaly, yet I haven't heard him denounce war lately – or ever. The Mormon "Church" supports capital punishment. I think you may be thinking of the Mennonites rather than the Mormons. I am not a beliver, but it is accurate to claim that they are a cult by Christian standards. It is not so much what they believe as what they deny and invent that makes them a cult in the eyes of orthodox Christians. Incidently, who knows what or even who Romney is?. He could be a Zoroastrian, for all I know, which would represent an improvement. As far as I'm concerned all religions are a menace, but there are degrees to everything.

      November 8, 2011 at 12:45 pm |
    • Godless

      I thought all Christians were supposed to turn the other cheek?

      November 8, 2011 at 12:50 pm |
    • Jeff

      You can't be serious...

      November 8, 2011 at 1:24 pm |
  6. Chuck

    Mormonism = Cult

    Religion = Cult (just a more mainstream one)

    Religion is based upon a time whereby people still thought that the earth was flat and was the center of the universe. They made up stories to try to explain what they didn't understand based upon astrological observations of the movements of the sun, stars, constellations, etc. In fact, Jesus is just allegory for the sun. How the sun moves against the 12 constellations (.. disciples..) and which constellation the sun is located on the winter solstice (Pisces) during this age. Hence the Egyptian symbol for Pisces many of you have on the back of your cars (.. the fish..). At the end of this age (.. not the end of the "world"..) when the sun enters into the constellation Aquarius , we will have a new sun god (.. the second coming..). It's all based upon ancient Egyptian religion and it's been used for thousands of years to control people and make them afraid and compliant. When are people going to wake up and take control of their lives

    November 8, 2011 at 12:14 pm |
    • Paul

      Gesus = most popular cult leader ever

      November 8, 2011 at 12:24 pm |
    • geebs

      you are a ranting lunatic. your rantings are humorous, though.

      November 8, 2011 at 12:39 pm |
    • Jeff

      geebs: Actually that assessment is completely accurate. Read some history other than the Bible once in a while.

      November 8, 2011 at 1:26 pm |
  7. Mike Briggs

    It's nice to see bigotry is alive and well in America in 2011. We talk about the gains we've made as a society over the last half a century or so, but we still have a long way to go.

    Most of the bigotry I've come across in my life is a result of religious nuts that think they are "right." It's the worst feeling when someone treats you differently when they find out your religion - they don't let your kids play with your kids (kids don't understand why), you're treated differently at work, your neighbors treat you differently, etc. It's horrible – it's bigotry that is still accepted (and often condoned) in our society. These posts reinforce that.

    I'm not sure I agree with Mitt Romney on the issues, but I'm certainly not going to vote for or against him because of his religious beliefs (as I do with all candidates for office). The Republican party claims to be inclusive - I disagree.

    November 8, 2011 at 12:13 pm |
    • Scott

      Awesome post, Mike. Very well said.

      November 8, 2011 at 12:27 pm |
    • Clinton

      You're an idiot Briggs... just because people are uneasy with this guy's religion doesn't make them bigots. See you're making a leap in thought to say that because people are uneasy with his religion they must hate him. There's no basis for making that leap. That's your problem that YOU can't see the difference. You know or SHOULD know, (you sound pretty stupid so you might not) that politicians make decisions based on their faith, so when people find someone with a different faith than theirs running for the highest office, it makes sense that they are uneasy with it. I personally don't have a huge problem with it, but i can certainly understand why someone would. Maybe next time think before spewing your convictions of everyone's bigotry all over the web. Moron.

      November 8, 2011 at 12:36 pm |
    • claybigsby

      Clinton needs to brush up on his 3rd grade reading comprehension.

      November 8, 2011 at 12:55 pm |
  8. Mike

    I don't get it! Conservatives can find more things to complain about than any group I ever knew of! The man is a Mormon not some crazed inept enemy! If it isn't the religion of the President they complain about then its just something else! These conservatives must be greatly unhappy about being alive!

    November 8, 2011 at 12:11 pm |
    • dewed

      This was a poll of all voters, not just Republicans...

      November 8, 2011 at 12:13 pm |
  9. Luke Brown

    Hmm ... This sounds like the same percentage who are uncomfortable with a black person being President.

    November 8, 2011 at 12:11 pm |
    • John

      WORD!!!!!

      November 8, 2011 at 6:10 pm |
  10. Enema Bandit

    Faith is very important to me in 2012.

    November 8, 2011 at 12:11 pm |
    • Paul

      Good, so do a write-in in 2012 and vote for Jesus ...

      November 8, 2011 at 12:26 pm |
    • Enema Bandit

      When I say it is important, I mean it is important to leave it OUT of politics. Seperation of Church and State please.

      November 8, 2011 at 12:48 pm |
  11. Eric of Reseda

    Make that 42% plus 1! The Mormon Church is craa-zee. A hotbed of ultra-Right Wing corruption and a traditional racist powerhouse. Grew up around Mormons and I know of what I speak. And Romney's story that he pulled over and cried when he heard that the Church was going to allow black people to join the priesthood is bull. Romney is as phony a politician as I've ever seen. And by the way, let's not forget that this was in 1978!!! The Mormon Church was WILDLY hesitant to accept blacks as equals...and they still are.

    November 8, 2011 at 12:10 pm |
    • Normon

      "WILDLY hesitant"

      That's a new one.

      November 8, 2011 at 12:13 pm |
    • Chris

      Looks like you know nothing of what you speak.

      November 8, 2011 at 12:18 pm |
    • John

      Yo Eric, you are so right about the bull story of mittens crying at that moment, He is as phony as a 3 $ bill!!! Do you ever see himself surrounding himself with Brothers, no, never He is 1 fake human being.

      November 8, 2011 at 6:14 pm |
  12. Eric

    If Romney was willing to condemn the church's racist history and state that it was wrong, I would feel better. However, he is still an apologist and refuses to call anything the church decreed as wrong. He will say he wanted the policy to change, but can't bring himself to directly criticize church policy. This is where things start to border on cults, and where I get incomfortable.

    November 8, 2011 at 12:09 pm |
    • John

      Exactly! He ducts that issue every time.

      November 8, 2011 at 6:15 pm |
  13. so what

    THERE WAS A ZEBRA WHO DIDN'T KNOW WHETHER HE WAS A BLACK ZEBRA WITH WHITE STRIPES OR A WHITE ZEBRA WITH BLACK STRIPES. SO HE WAS DETERMINED TO ASK GOD WHEN THE TIME WOULD DIE AND GO TO HEAVEN SINCE HE KNEW THAT HE WAS CREATED IN GOD'S IMAGE. WHEN HE DIED AND ENTERED THE WHITE PEARLY GATES, HE HEARD A VOICE THAT SAID WHAT IS IT THAT YOU WANT? THE ZEBRA REPLIED, "GOD, I'VE ALWAYS WANTED TO KNOW WHETHER I'M A BLACK ZEBRA OR A WHITE ZEBRA? SO WHAT ARE YOU GOD, ARE YOU A WHITE ZEBRA WITH BLACK STRIPES OR A BLACK ZEBRA WITH WHITE STRIPES. THEN THE VOICE SAID, "I IS THAT I IS... =) SO WE ARE ALL ZEBRAS!!!

    November 8, 2011 at 12:09 pm |
  14. cecilia

    then it is clear – 42% of the people are idiots, morons, uneducated, and just plain dumb

    November 8, 2011 at 12:08 pm |
  15. Aerin

    Ask about their god from the planet Kolob. It's in the Book of Abraham.

    All religion is made up by old men to control the rest of us.

    November 8, 2011 at 12:04 pm |
    • Normon

      Agist misandrist

      November 8, 2011 at 12:07 pm |
    • Chuck

      Good post.

      November 8, 2011 at 12:07 pm |
    • cecilia

      Lord – honey you have been watching way to much fox

      November 8, 2011 at 12:08 pm |
  16. krobs

    why are people mixing religion with government, sure they both share the same level of stupidity, however they should be kept seperate from one another, someone's religion does not show how good of a president they will be.

    November 8, 2011 at 12:03 pm |
    • Criminy

      Always remember: There is "a rat" in separate. That is how my teacher taught me to not misspell it. I hope it works for YOU, too.

      November 8, 2011 at 12:05 pm |
  17. julius c

    Tell that to Harry Reid.

    November 8, 2011 at 12:03 pm |
  18. Criminy

    Nobody polled me. I want to go on record that I don't want a Mormon President. I don't even want a Mormon living near me.

    November 8, 2011 at 12:03 pm |
    • Scott

      That's good because I don't want a bigot living near me.

      November 8, 2011 at 12:20 pm |
    • Nonimus

      @Criminy,
      Don't you see the connection between the things you said?
      No one wants to know what you think.

      November 8, 2011 at 12:29 pm |
  19. BFOTO

    And we are comfortable with Obama and his 20 year membership in Reverend Wright's "church"? Conflicted much?!

    November 8, 2011 at 12:02 pm |
    • Criminy

      I never said I was comfortable with that.

      November 8, 2011 at 12:04 pm |
  20. JimAR

    I remember the uneasiness about Kennedy being a Catholic in the 1960 election. He was repeatedly dogged with unfair questions from the press about what he would do if the pope told him to do something. I was in Catholic School at the time and the nuns sent us home to tell our parents they HAD to vote for Kennedy because he was Catholic. My mom, who was a very good Catholic, voted for Nixon. A candidate's religion has no bearing on whether he or she will make a good president.

    November 8, 2011 at 12:01 pm |
    • Jim in Georgia

      You know, if you remember that then you are pretty old and nobody will listen to you anyway...

      November 8, 2011 at 12:25 pm |
    • Therese

      My family of devout Catholics didn't vote for Kennedy back in the 60s either.

      November 8, 2011 at 12:44 pm |
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About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.